Tech companies have largely ignored a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to add railway crossing data to their map apps, Politico reports. In 2016, after an accident in which a tired truck driver who used his mobile phone to navigate crashed into an Amtrak train at a level crossing, the NTSB issued a recommendation asking mapping companies to incorporate at-grade railway crossing data from the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of some 200,000 level crossings, so that their apps can warn drivers that a railway crossing is coming up.
Nearly three years later, hardly any of them have implemented the recommendation, and to date only three have responded to the NTSB recommendation: Garmin said it has railway crossing data in its latest devices, TomTom said it has had such data for a decade; Google, for its part, worried that adding such data might overcrowd the map and distract its users. Other providers, including Apple, Here, MapQuest and Microsoft, did not respond to the NTSB. Meanwhile, UPS says its proprietary navigation system includes level crossings, and while OpenStreetMap doesn’t use the FRA database, it has a level crossing tag that’s been used worldwide more than 730,000 times.
BNSF is one of the largest railways in North America. It’s the end product of a series of rail mergers, and as such it has records for all its antecedent railroads. Including, as an item posted to its website this month reveals, maps, which BNSF is now in the process of digitizing.
Some of the most historically significant maps that BNSF has are maps filed by our predecessor railroads. These maps depicted the beginning of the railroad as we know it, and were often the first official survey of some of the more remote areas of the developing West.
Many of our vital maps were found in boxes or stashed in file cabinets or storage rooms. “We went to 200-plus locations going through thousands, if not tens of thousands of boxes,” said Obermiller of the conversion. “Now we are preserving the most vital maps to ensure we are retaining our vital records and are good stewards of our heritage.”
No word in the piece as to whether those records are available to researchers or the public.
In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.
Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.
Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.
Czech Railways (České dráhy) have pulled its upcoming annual diary from circulation because it includes a sensitive map of Europe, the Lidové nivony reports (in Czech; Google Translate). The map, created by Kartografie Praha, shows Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia as disputed regions and marks the territory held by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Apparently afraid of offending ambassadors and business partners, the railways is holding some 5,000 copies of the diary in a warehouse. [Maps on the Web]
James Clark has updated his map of current and proposed railways in southeast Asia (see previous entry). The new version clearly delineates between current and proposed lines. “The black lines on the map represent railways that are currently operating, while the red lines are proposed lines. As with the subway map, proposed can mean anything from lines currently under construction, in feasibility study stage, or an on-the-record election promise from a pork-barrelling politician.”
Derek Hayes’s latest historical atlas (there have been many) came out last week from Firefly Books: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads. “In this book, Derek Hayes compiles archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world’s early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist.” [Amazon]
I’ve seen real-time maps of Swiss trains before; this one, Trafimage, comes courtesy of the Swiss Federal Railways, and includes all kinds of information about the network: rail and bus lines, stations, fare networks, as well as real-time train data. Clicking on “Train tracker” makes the trains appear as circles moving along the rail lines; it’s apparently timetable-based rather than tracking actual trains, but remember: these are Swiss trains. [Maps Mania]
President Trump’s proposed budget would end funding for Amtrak’s long-distance passenger routes, leaving only the Northeast Corridor and state-funded lines. Maps of the lines that would be closed share the problems of Amtrak network maps in general. Take USA Today’s map from its 12 April article on the subject:
Like electoral maps that make large, less-populated areas look more important than densely populated areas, this map is somewhat deceptive: it distorts the extent of the cutbacks because it shows lines rather than trains. There are, for example, a lot more trains in the Northeast Corridor than run between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest (the daily Empire Builder). State-run services tend to have lots of lines and trains over short distances that are too small to see clearly on this map. Adding connecting services (which are usually bus routes) adds even more detail, and clutter, to a small map.
The Washington Post has six maps of U.S. flights, shipping lanes, electrical transmission lines, railroads and pipelines that highlight “the massive scope of America’s infrastructure” that will presumably be the focus of future Trump administration spending. [Benjamin Hennig]
What would Southeast Asia look like if it had a fully functioning railway network? I have thought about this many times, usually while on a bus ride from hell (Huay Xai to Luang Prabang springs to mind). […]
Over the years I’ve bookmarked news articles reporting railway lines that are under construction, or have been proposed to be built. Compiling all this data I have created a map of what Southeast Asia could look like if all of those lines were built, combined with current railways.
James warns that he’s included every proposed line, “no matter how ridiculous,” so bear that in mind. It’s also available as a poster. [CityLab]
Cameron Booth has released an apparently final version of his subway-style Amtrak network map, which he’s been working on for the past few years. In this version he’s reworked it to improve spacing and lettering; routes do not overlap one another, which also improves clarity. It doesn’t reduce well to a single screen (he does sell prints), but it’s no small achievement to show the crowded Northeast Corridor and the rest of the network in one go and still show all the lines and connections clearly. Wired coverage.